The Spaghetti Shaman
Dr. Kenneth Geddie
Dr. Kenneth Geddie, at the height of his powers, was perhaps the ablest pediatrician with whom I have ever worked.
That must be taken as a most relative claim, for most of those with whom I worked were well trained and able, including myself, but Kenneth, in my mind, had an edge.
He was worshipped by most of the parents of his patients, but detested by some of the parents of the patients his partners treated.
He seemed to resent any who came to our office and did not chose him as their physician, and sometimes he let them know how this felt -- but he always took good care of any children who came his way.
His young patients -- ears always attuned, as children's are, for rhyme or alliteration -- called him "Dr. Spaghetti".
He got along famously with them.
I was a "slow learner" when it came to figuring Kenneth out.
He was beyond twenty years my senior and was near retirement age when I joined The Infant and Child Clinic in my early forties.
The tremendous regard I always had for my father and uncle had washed over into esteem for any elder I considered honorable, lest they be someone who gave me reason to dislike them.
My immediate feeling for Kenneth reflected that mindset, however, when things would seem well between us he would say or do something outrageous, obviously intended to anger or hurt.
My younger colleague, Dr. Bill Michael, who also had his troubles with Kenneth, pointed out that I should stop worrying about Kenneth, as had he.
With better insight than mine, he had seen that Kenneth couldn't let himself get too close to anyone save children, because affection seemed to make him feel vulnerable and he needed to back one away.
Jack Lynch, our other colleague, was a life-long friend and had been the one who got me invited into the group.
Due to Jack's going to medical school while I went to war, and his then going into practice while I went into teaching, he had been working with Kenneth nearly twenty years when I arrived, even though we were of the same age.
Jack was also one of those naturally peace-loving persons who would walk across town to avoid an argument, and he, by large, got along better with others than any of us.
He was usually the mediator who smoothed ruffled feathers.
He got along well with Kenneth, but I was to later learn that the practice had nearly been pulled asunder by the friction between them during Jack's earlier years.
Contrary to the corrugated companionship he enjoyed with many adults Kenneth got along well with his young patients.
He often kidded them and in turn accepted their barbs with good nature.
One day, he was examining a pre-schooler and he said to her: "You didn't comb your hair today. You look like a witch!"
She replied: "Well, I guess that makes you a "witch doctor!"
March 19, 1996
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